From the Head’s Desk

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This week we celebrated the first week of re-entry to school for all pupils from Grade R to Grade 7, and we are very pleased that Grade RR and RRR will also join as part of our phased approach next week. We will also be commemorating Cowan House’s 72nd birthday and Youth Day next week on Tuesday 16 June. Events like these represent significant moments of collective consciousness (memory bank downloads) of shared experiences. We have certainly come a long way since the early days of 12 boys in 1948, and our campus has changed significantly since those first days in Mountain Rise outside Pietermaritzburg.

In many ways, each year in a school’s history replicates annually the same stages (joys and disappointments)in the development of children and even parents since the beginning of schooling, but strangely enough, each year is sufficiently unique for pupils, staff and parents to differentiate the mood and feel of that year. And 2020 has certainly established its uniqueness in the history of the world, and of course Cowan House.

Many old schools have proud traditions of not ever closing their doors to pupils through the international tragedies of world wars. The modern Olympic Games were only ever cancelled in 1916, 1940 and 1944. Well, again 2020, the year of Coronavirus, has notched up many firsts in the history of the modern world.

Although our pupils, particularly our Grade 7s, will have missed out on so many traditional academic, sporting, social and cultural experiences, I also hope 2020 will be remembered for the resourcefulness and resilience of people and children in finding ways of overcoming the many barriers encountered. We stressed so much about how young children will adapt and manage mask wearing and social distancing protocols, and true to form, within the first day back, they had the ‘whole thing waxed.’ Amazing! Tracey Wood published a delightful video of our Grade Rs’ return to school. 


We certainly have enjoyed a good week back with everyone from Grades R – 7 having spent at least two days in
their classrooms this week. While it is difficult, it is wonderful to observe how the children and staff have adapted to a number of new protocols and regulations, and shown resilience at the same time. I am really proud of what has been achieved on a number of fronts this week.

The thing now is to remain vigilant in COVID compliance and sustain the energy to remain disciplined in following our routines and protocols. We have two weeks of term left before a well-deserved rest.

Confirmation of Revised Term Dates
End of Term 2 – Friday 26 June (at the end of the school day)

Term 3
Wednesday 15 July, 07h30 to Friday 18 September, 10h00
Half Term: Thursday 13 August, ±11h00 to Tuesday 18 August, 07h30

Term 4
Monday 05 October, 07h30 to Friday 27 November, 10h00
Half Term – tbc

Ryan van der Merwe

Congratulations to Ryan van der Merwe on being awarded the reinstated Cowan House Closed Scholarship to Maritzburg College. The Head of Maritzburg College, Mr Chris Lumen, also provided feedback of Cowan House CHAPPS successes in rugby.

William Proudfoot

Ty Nelson and William Proudfoot achieved great heights on the rugby scene with Ty being selected for the USA U20 team and William the Sharks U21 side. Congratulations gents!

From Boarding

Well 66 days of lockdown has certainly taken its toll on the fitness levels of our young troopers; a lot of training is needed! It’s out with the inactivity of movies and PlayStation games, and in with 3km run routes and afternoon exercise routines. It is really something we are working on and the youngster are physically and psychologically much the better for it. Some of them are even requesting Golf lessons from Mr Bloy, whom according to the Headmaster has some potential.

Boarding Staff have also had to adjust their daily clocks to early starts to the day again, and ‘Mr Larter’ is struggling with the late nights. He would love to bed-down with the Juniors every night as was the norm for him during lockdown.

The new routines and way of life will take some getting used to, but the distancing and hand sanitising is fast becoming a way of life. We are still tweaking our routines and trying to get creative with how we entertain the children, and what they can and cannot do. We recently enjoyed a lovely evening where we lit a bonfire and social distanced on chairs. The chatter, humour and music were so much fun.

A big thank you to all of the Boarding community for the support from parents in sending children back. A huge thank you to all the staff for embracing change and remaining fluid and open-minded in these testing times.

Time Capsule for 2020

Perhaps because, by definition, time is so fluid and in constant motion (you can’t stop time), there has always been a need to record history. There is also a human fascination with the past and the future. A time capsule is a way of leaving a record of a particular time in history for us and others to revisit at a later date. Many of these ‘time capsule moments’ mark significant times and events in history.

The garden outside the Staff Room is known as the Cowan House Jubilee Garden and Time Capsule. In the centre of the garden is a concrete box, and the plague and signage on this commemorates Cowan House’s 60th birthday (1948-2008). The inscription says, ‘Items relevant to 2008, our 60th celebration year, have been placed in this sealed time capsule. Please open in 15 years’ time, 2023 and reveal how technology has changed.’ 2023 will mark the school’s 75th Birthday and perhaps time for the creation of another time capsule for the school’s centenary in 2048.

The beautiful and very solid, wooden table in our Pavilion is a generous Leavers’ Gift from the Class of 2016 concealed and sealed-off in a compartment under the table is a time capsule of items left by the class of 2016 as mementos of their time at Cowan House. The plan is to reopen the capsule in 2021 when the group will gather for their 5 year CHAPPS reunion evening.

I’m sure many of us have our own Lockdown diaries, in some form, recording the unprecedented nature of our experiences of this year, 2020, and a time capsule would make for an interesting ‘reading’ of events for future generations. What would we save?

Speech and Drama Festival

My previous Newsletter commended the boys and girls for their preparation for 2020’s ‘Virtual’ Speech & Drama Festival. No fewer than 275 individually recorded entries were up-loaded for the Festival’s external examiners to adjudicate. Today we received a letter from the Festival organisers commending Cowan House on the programme used for our entries and the quality of the work presented:

‘Without any previous experience with presenting Speech and Drama in this way, Cowan House children excelled themselves. The work was of a high standard and they were a pleasure to watch – well-prepared, confident, enthusiastic and well deserving of the excellent results achieved.’

I look forward to publishing these results in the final Newsletter of the term. Well done to all involved!


In Conclusion

Youth Day, 16 June, commemorates the fight of young people in 1976 for the basic human right of a meaningful education. Forty-four years later, this seems as relevant as ever on so many levels. Many of the tensions in society that erupted so violently in 1976, rose to the fore again and featured prominently in News Headlines and Social Media posts this very week. Worldwide, Coronavirus has highlighted the enormous inequalities in society, and South Africa remains critically vulnerable as a result of our own massive inequalities. Resolving these inequalities will remain a South African responsibility many years into our democratic future.

ISASA has done much to campaign for Independent Schools’ rights to exercise our freedom in providing a quality education for our young people. As educationists, meeting the educational needs of children must always be our prime focus, and it seems apt that we celebrate our school’s birthday annually on Youth Day.

Have a great week.


Thought of the Day

We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.

– Franklin D. Roosevelt